Speedrunning the Multiverse

I'm a fan of cultivation. I'm a fan of do-over stories. I'm a fan of speedrunning. Combine them all into one and guess what? I'm a fan. 

Honestly, Speedrunning the Multiverse is the traditional do-over story taken to the logical extreme. Not only do we have an insanely experienced OP protagonist brought back to square one, but we have one that has experience with the very act of doing it over and over again. Much like the gaming communities which this story takes its name from, Dorian features an almost meta-level understanding of his world and what the optimal strategies will be at each turn. He's a ruthless, borderline sociopathic OP MC done in the best way.

Adastra339 also has a very fitting style for such a character, with prose that is complex but not trying too hard, if that makes sense. They can add splashes of glorious poetry here and there, but they aren't afraid to keep it simple either. 

The grammar is pristine, too. 

If you're in any way like me and love a good do-over story, this one will definitely treat you right. I'm expecting to see great things from you, Speedrunning the Multiverse!

(This counts as a top trending prediction. +1)

Rise of the Firstborn

(I'm not actually first but it was too good a pun to waste)

Let me preface this by saying I was a big fan of the previous version of this work. It was one of the first stories I ever reviewed on this site and it really set my expectations high going forwards. Now, more than a year later, Rise of the Firstborn returns even better than ever.

The first thing I noticed as I began reading was the prose. Briizy has always had top-notch prose, and I'm happy to say that the quality remains ever-consistent throughout this rewrite. The smooth descriptions and snappy dialogue did wonders for immersion in this story's previous incarnation, and now I can see the author working to elevate them to the next level.

Speaking of dialogue, I'm in love with the author's grasp of character voice. This has always been one of her greatest strengths, with each character not only speaking differently via dialect, but also word choice and expression. In a single scene, the dialogue alone can carry through a range of emotions, both between characters and within a single person.

Oh, and the author's biggest weakness from before has been fixed. As a member of #badpacinggang, I am sad to see Briizy leave, but I'm very happy with how the reworked opening turned out. More time spent on the MC's emotions means more emotional impact with the reader, and while this story can certainly tug at your heartstrings, I want to ask why is that a bad thing??? 

Rise of the Firstborn brings us a depth of emotion rarely seen on RR, stemming from its darker fantasy roots meshed with the author's personal writing style. If you're into a mix of traditional medieval fantasy and magic school with a dash of drama and mystery, definitely give this one a try!

Mark of the Fool: A Progression Fantasy

Edit as of 08/18/2021: Woo! 110 chapters in and still quality as ever.

I swear, Mark of the Fool is going to hit trending HARD in the coming weeks. This story is just about everything you want from a good RR story without the drawbacks that normally come from this format. There's great plot, amazing writing, complex characters, and brilliant fights - all wrapped up in one awesome package. Before I get into that, though, here's some things to note.

I'm a fan of the author's previous works, and had the good fortune of being able to read this story before it got posted here. Thus, I have more to work with than the 60 pages currently up, and might reference vague "future events". The author also has a history of completing whatever he starts, which might be reassuring for those cautious of drops.

Now that I've gotten those disclaimers out of the way, let's get right into things!

Like some reviews before this have said, the prose here is good. Like, really good. Some of the best on the site level good. If I could give this section a 6/5, I would. Normally, RR's writing tends to be fairly minimalistic, and a lot of stories with fancy flourishes end up having the prose detract from the actual story. Not this one, though. All of UnstoppableJuggernaut's writing enhances the story, making the story and characters come alive in your mind in a way I rarely see on RR. It's never too much, never too purple. Just the right amount to make your reading experience 5x better. I swear, if for nothing else, read this story for the actual writing.

Of course, that isn't to say that there's nothing else about this story that's worthwhile. Even if you don't care at all for prose, the story and characters more than carry the book on their own. You could say that the plot of Mark of the Fool is a twice-subversion of traditional fantasy plot. He doesn't get the Chosen One Amazing Hero Mark, and he doesn't go out to fight the dark lord. Instead, the MC carves his own path and tries to evade getting dragged into the grand quest as much as he can. Basically, the MC actually gets to drive the plot forwards by himself, and it only gets better in the future.

He's also much more realistic than some protagonists can be. He's rational and clever, but he still has emotions. For a spoiler example (chapter 3):

We can take the scene where he gets the Mark. At first, he reacts negatively, because he doesn't want any Mark, and especially not the Mark of the Fool. However, after he gets some time to process the situation, he immediately starts testing the Mark's capabilities in order to see what he can do with it, and if he's able to exploit it at all.

His catchphrase is even "Think. Adapt," which should tell you everything you need to know about his character.

It's not just the MC who gets to be "an actual character", though. All the side characters are interesting, which is something I see in very few fics on RR. Even the kinda-sorta-antagonist-figure is semi-likeable, when it could have been easy to make them human trash. The banter between the MC and his companions is heart-warming and genuinely funny sometimes, and it offers some nice contrast to the tension of the rest of the story.

Just a warning: There is a romantic subplot, though it's minor and handled wayyyy better than your typical romance is. I personally enjoyed it, and you can rest assured the characters aren't going to do stupid things because they were "blinded by love" or anything.

There is a very slight nitpick I have to give, and it's honestly almost unfair of me to give Mark of the Fool's story score a 4.5 because of this when it's really more like a 4.9. That very slight nitpick is that the beginning takes just a tad longer to get to the meat of things than RR may prefer. This may come down to, as another review said, the "Trad Quality" of the story, because in a bookstore I probably wouldn't blink at an intro twice this length. It's also chock-full of still-interesting moments that I wouldn't mind reading it even at twice the length. I'm just nitpicking because the most likely reason a reader is to pick up this book might take a bit longer than expected to appear.

Anyways, I've rambled on for long enough, so let's wrap things up. Overall, I couldn't praise this story enough. It's all the best qualities of progression mixed with the masterful prose and characters of a professional. No stat screens in this one, but it doesn't need them to be interesting. Like I said, this will hit trending like a truck, so why not get in now while it's still young? I promise, it only gets better in the future.

Prism - Seekers of Solace (A LitRPG Saga)

As I started reading Prism - Seekers of Solace, I almost felt like I was transported back to 2016, when I used to binge all the new litrpg stuff on kindle. The VRMMO trope has kind of fallen out of favor in more recent years, but this story proves that you can still do it very well. 

The best parts of this story IMO are the character interactions and world building. Dialogue and expressions are really well done and the characters are surprisingly vivid, even during their first scenes. 

The world definitely feels like there's been a lot of thought put into it, like the stage keeps existing even when the characters step out of it, if that makes sense.

The prose is also very descriptive and flowy, though at a higher level than most of what you'd find on RR. When done right, this immerses you in the scene and smoothly leads you from one detail to the next, though at times it can be a little too much.

I also didn't catch any grammatical errors, so gremmer, is gud, two. 

Overall, if you're looking for a blast to the past or just want to try out a VRMMO style story, I highly recommend you give this a try. 

Warlock's Gate [DROPPED]

Warlock's Gate is a rare breed of story on RR, mixing elements of dark fantasy, progression, and political intrigue into a cohesive and gripping whole. And let me tell you, the author doesn't say the litRPG is crunchy for no reason! 

If you're the type that loves reading all those beautiful blue boxes in litRPG, you're going to have a blast with this one. All the fights are caked in a heavy drizzle of punchy stat screens, which are expertly placed so as to maximize their impact to the scene. Thus, while the litRPG is certainly heavy in scenes where it's needed, it's not needlessly padding out wordcount in the more character-focused scenes.

Speaking of, the characters are perhaps this story's greatest strength. The author expertly weaves character voice into the dialogue so that every new face feels distinct, and especially regarding the MC, you can tell each character choice was carefully thought out and in line with both rationality and (sometimes irrational) motivation. You aren't getting a robot, but you are getting a cunning warlock who isn't afraid of stealing kills and playing social situations to her advantage.

The MC's narrative voice is majorly enhanced by the sheer quality of prose, which imo is in the upper echelon of what you'll see on RR. It's more descriptive and vivid than almost anything else you'll see on this site.

Oh, and grammar's pristine.

All in all, if you enjoy crunchy litrpg and the grittier side of progression, definitely give this one a try! I can guarantee you'll see it climbing trending in a few weeks.

Breaker of Horizons

In a week, this story will be top of trending. I'm calling it. Why, you ask?

Well, Breaker of Horizons does something rare on RR: it combines audience appeal, incredible technical skill, and a monstrous release schedule. Lots of stories on trending have 1 or 2 of the three, but rarely does a story manage to combine all three into one. In fact, I think the last one I read like that was Mark of the Fool, which I also called ;)

Let's talk about the premise first. Right off the bat, NoDragons does two things a bit different: this system apocalypse is told from the invaders' perspective, and it's actually a kind of monster evolution story.

I'm a sucker for monster protags, so I was drawn in as soon as I saw the cute axolotyl warrior art that inspired this story. Don't mistake the art for the actual character, though, as Nic is a reckless and cunning roguish type, raised in poverty and ready to perform traditional MC exploits for every perk the system is willing to give. (Not a lot of cute points, though. Shame!)

The other characters, primarily his system assistant at the moment, are lively and interesting. I especially liked the whole "stop throwing yourself into life-threatening situations" dynamic they have going on, it's very entertaining. 

Style-wise, the prose here is very, very proficient. The imagery especially can blow your socks off at times, and the micro-pacing is very well done most of the time. My only nitpick would be that the prose might be too high-level for my poor little junkfood-fed brain, as I'm used to consuming litRPGs with minimal description and the like. I didn't notice any grammar errors, so 5/5 there.

Like I said, watch trending closely. In a matter of days, you might just see the rise of a new top story ;)

Apocalypse Unleashed - A LitRPG Story

As a formal representative of the cult of #twingang, I would like to announce the induction of Origin, the Creator into our grand sect. As the royally appointed magister of twinning, I can confirm: this is indeed not only a story about twins, but wholesome twins in a very un-wholesome world. 

The first thing I noticed about this story is just how much the author's style has grown compared to their last fic. The prose flows smoother and the buildup/payoff of sentences and paragraphs is well executed.

However, I feel like some events were a tad off-paced. The intro itself wasn't bad per se, but I feel like it should have either been expanded a bit more to really immerse the reader or shortened so as to get to the apocalypse faster. Additionally, I feel like the "sequel" reaction scenes to the monster could have been a tad more impactful. Other than that, though, I'm excited to see how the seeds of story that have been planted will bloom.

Grammar is grammar. I didn't notice anything, so that's a 5 by me.

The characters are really where this story shines, though. I may or may not be slightly biased, but I'm a sucker for wholesome twins. The MCs' wholesomeness contrasting with the rest of the world's chaos is a trope I know well, and I feel like this story plays it out very well. 

Overall, I have to commend this new #twingang story for taking the twin torch terrifically in this terrible terre. Keep it up!

Truth Seeker: A LitRPG Timeloop

I've had the privelege of watching as this author honed his style, and I have to say I'm really proud of how far he's come. The story here is nice, and I'm appreciating how much voice is coming through in the writing and characters. All in all, a very fun read!

A Dream of Wings and Flame

Is anyone else trying to fill that monster-sized hole in their heart after shade-touched went on hiatus? Or maybe you're just a sucker for all of CocoP's stuff (this is also me). Or maybe you've just discovered this randomly and want to see what all the cute kobold hype is about. 

My friends, this story delivers. It is one of the most optimistic, adorable, heart-melting stories out there. While I'm out here making comparisons, I'd think Cinnamon Bun would be appropriate, given this level of adorability.

That isn't to say that it's all tree-hugging and rainbow-vomiting (there's also a fair amount of rat-skewering and monster-escaping), but man, it's the type of story that leaves you smiling and with a +200% positivity buff. 

The star of the show is of course the characters. Samazzar is... Pretty much a standard shounen MC, but without all of the annoyingness that might come from your typical one. He has all that childlike wonder that makes you want to give him headpats, but also cleverness and determination beyond what you'd expect. He's no whiny child - he's just a kobold with a dream (heheheh). The side characters also bring so much life to the world, instead of just being cardboard NPCs giving quests to our lead. The old mentor figure Taz is a wonderful contrast to Sam's pluckyness, but it's not the "work you to death and constantly berate you" type mentorship. It's... well, wholesome, just like everything else in the story. Even the guards and side-kobolds have managed to steal my heart T-T

This is of course facilitated by the style and story. I don't think anyone needs a reminder of how good CocoP's writing is, but just in case: man, it blows your socks off. I actually got chills reading the prologue, like a big camera-zooms-out moment in a movie. The fights are amazingly paced, and the character interactions are just *mwah*. So good. 

The story itself is all about young Sam becoming a mighty dragon, in a wonderful (non-litRPG) magic system that we've only scratched the surface of. The chapters have... I don't want to say an episodic feel, but certainly a vibe to them that greatly complements the wholesome nature of this story. The plot is still always advancing, however, and actually progression is made at a pretty fast pace.

Grammar is grammar, as usual. I haven't spotted any errors, so that's a 5/5 from me.

Overall, from the moment I started reading this story I've been blown away. I'm a sucker for wholesome shit, and this story managed to combine that with big monster-fights and clever MC scheming perfectly. Seriously, give it a try. You won't regret it.

Tian (A LitRPG Cultivation Isekai)

For those coming expecting Melas or Salvos 2: Electric Boogaloo, I'm sorry to disappoint, but this is not it. Tian is an experience in its own right, a wonderfully written and surprisingly introspective tale that I believe combines some of the author's greatest strengths. 

Let's start with style. The prose in this fic is more complex than the prose in Salvos, which isn't necessarily a good or bad thing, just different. It's also written in first person present. I personally enjoy this writing style, but some might also dislike that it takes more energy to read, and some might not notice a difference. The grammar is pristine as always though, so no problems there.

Following the theme of a more complex story, the plot itself holds some deeper questions and philosophies. Presenting itself first as a modified version of the classic "isekai to defeat the dark lord", the story and characters open up a bit as of chapter 6 to something reminiscent of stories like Never Die Twice. Themes of cultivation are explored beyond what you normally see in these cultivation novels, I'm always a sucker for tragic backstories. Beyond that, though, the author also presents an interesting plotpoint in the lack of Qi on this new world. Tian has limited resources, which really gives a sense of urgency to her actions.

Overall, if you were a fan of MelasD's previous works, give it a try! Just don't go in expecting a carbon copy of his previous stories. And if you haven't read anything from him before, consider this: do you want to read a beautiful blend or cultivation and litrpg, following an action-packed storyline with hints of deeper themes? If yes, then go read it!